Is It God’s Goodness that Leads to Repentance?

by Cameron Buettel Friday, July 12, 2019

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 30, 2015. -ed.

We live in an age that demands short bursts of rapid-fire information. The day is fast approaching—perhaps it’s already here—when the number of Twitter followers will hold the preeminent place on a pastor’s resume. Sermon lengths are going the way of our shrinking attention spans. Modern pastors are tempted to replace exegesis and exposition with sound bite sermons and slogan theology.

But Bible verses are not slogans or sound bites. They are eternal truths that find their meaning within the overall story God is telling. Uprooting a verse, or even a biblical phrase, from its native habitat can lead to all kinds of mayhem. That is especially the case when, independent of their proper context, verses are enlisted as the supporting cast for someone’s opinion or agenda. Romans 2:4 is one verse that is regularly misused that way—carelessly sprinkled into sermons, interviews, and social media.

For example, in January 2013, Rick Warren explained to his legions of Facebook followers how the verse factored in his evangelistic methods:

In that particular case, Warren was quoting Romans 2:4 (actually only about half of it) as justification for downplaying sin and soft-peddling the threat of judgment. But is that what Romans 2:4 is really all about? Was Paul telling his Roman readers to jettison the parts of gospel preaching that lack curb appeal?

Joel Osteen is even more explicit in his use of Romans 2:4 to defend his feel-good messages:

Listen, don’t dangle people over the fires of hell. . . . Listen, that doesn’t draw people to God. They know what kind of life they live. They know how bad they’ve lived. What you’ve got to do is talk about the goodness of God. Listen, it’s the goodness of God that brings people to repentance. [1]

Joel Osteen may think that people know they are sinners and that we therefore don’t need to warn them or preach about it, but does Romans 2:4 really back up his point?

Moreover, is his point biblical at all? Just as prisons are full of convicts who will proclaim their innocence, Scripture is clear that sinners reject the guilt of their sin. As Solomon explained, “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2). And even those who do acknowledge their sin have little grasp of the depth of their wretchedness, or the eternal cost of their transgressions.

In fact, it’s ironic that Osteen and Warren would use Romans 2:4 to excuse themselves from discussing sin and the need for repentance, since that verse is plucked from Scripture’s most profound discourse on man’s depravity.

Romans 1–3 is undeniable proof that Paul began his exposition of the gospel by first addressing the universality of sin and the justness of God’s wrath against sin. John MacArthur points this out:

The biblical order in any gospel presentation is always first the warning of danger and then the way of escape, first the judgment on sin and then the means of pardon, first the message of condemnation and then the offer of forgiveness, first the bad news of guilt and then the good news of grace. The whole message and purpose of the loving, redeeming grace of God offering eternal life through Jesus Christ rests upon the reality of man’s universal guilt of abandoning God and thereby being under His sentence of eternal condemnation and death. Consistent with that approach, the main body of Romans begins with 1:18, a clear affirmation of God’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [2]

It is actually our guilt and the justness of God’s wrath that provide the all-important context for Romans 2:4:

And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Romans 2:2-5)

Now you can see why Romans 2:4 is so frequently divorced from its context, and why it’s usually paraphrased instead of quoted. In the full context of Paul’s writing we see clearly what he means by God’s goodness—it is “the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience.” And Romans 2:2-3 explains how God demonstrates that tolerance and patience—by withholding the wrath we deserve. God’s goodness is the reality that we have not yet experienced His judgment. MacArthur adds:

Forbearance [tolerance] comes from anochē, which means “to hold back,” as of judgment. It was sometimes used to designate a truce, which involves cessation of hostilities between warring parties. God’s forbearance with mankind is a kind of temporary divine truce He has graciously proclaimed. Patience translates makrothumia, which was sometimes used of a powerful ruler who voluntarily withheld vengeance on an enemy or punishment of a criminal. Until the inevitable moment of judgment, God’s kindness and forbearance and patience are extended to all mankind. [3]

It is impossible to preach the goodness of God without talking about sin and judgment because its very meaning is bound up in those terms. When we see our sinfulness and rebellion against God, and when we see our hypocrisy in condemning others for committing the same wrath-deserving sins, then we can also marvel at God’s goodness in patiently and tolerantly withholding the wrath that we deserve.

That is what leads us to repentance. And it is entirely consistent with what Paul taught elsewhere in Scripture:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B150930

Advertisements

The Grace Period Is Over

July 11, 2019 by mariomurilloministries

 

The grace period is over for false and carnal preachers because there is too much at stake. It’s over, because protecting you from shame is not nearly as important as saving a nation from destruction.

The Left has declared total war on decency, and you are in God’s line of fire.

Ask yourself. Why were Ananias and Sapphira struck dead at the feet of Peter in Acts chapter 5? It was not just for what they did, it was also because of when they did it. They did it at an explosive moment for the church. Satan was going about like a roaring lion, trying to destroy the church, and God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of the Apostles. Ananias and Sapphira chose to lie to the Holy Spirit at a strategic time when the church needed to be reminded that they served a holy God.

You will either be purified or replaced.  The time when God winked at your compromise is over.  You thought God didn’t see. “And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?””  (Psalm 73:11).

Worse yet, you thought because He has delayed your discipline, He has somehow given you license to continue in your lifestyle of drunkenness and materialism.

Public confession of sin is coming.  Malachi 3:3 says, “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Remember—not everyone who is disciplined by God will make the cut.

Look for tragic downfalls—you who have fattened yourselves at the expense of the sheep and left them weak and unprotected.  (see Ezekiel 34) God told you to resist the wicked winds of political change.  Instead, you hid behind a lame excuse that you didn’t want to be political.

The wicked devices of the Left that have wrecked marriage, and continue to kill the unborn, are but a few of the evils it was your duty to oppose.  Instead, you self-righteously said you were above politics.

Meanwhile, those political policies have oppressed the sheep of God. Godless laws got them fired for being Christian.  You said nothing. Political correctness got their children suspended from school. You looked the other way.   Godless laws bankrupted bakers, florists, and other Christian small businesses.  And still, you were silent.

In your silence, you are taking other people down with you.   You are damaging your audience by only saying what they want to hear. You have not led them forward; you have not removed them from danger.  Worse yet, when you finally speak out, it is misguided.

You were silent when Obama worked his destruction.  But now you oppose a President who is doing more for the sheep of God than you are.  Man of God: Tell the truth.

I was awakened out of a dead sleep, and God said, “It is time to fulfill My promise.” Then He showed me Jeremiah 3:15, “And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Satan is not impressed with your billion-dollar empire. He mocks it.  It has no power where it matters.  R. A. Torrey said, “The Devil is perfectly willing that the church should multiply its organizations and its deftly contrived machinery for the conquest of the world for Christ, if it will only give up praying…The Devil is not afraid of machinery; he is only afraid of God. And machinery without prayer is machinery without God.”

Then God told me how He has come to despise the word, ‘Activate.’  He is rebuking the signs-and- wonders-crowd who are cheapening the gifts of the Spirit by promising instant activation of gifts and  turning God into some kind of vending machine.  God is opposed to the message that promises gifts without a relationship to the Heart of the Father.  God will only grant gifts to those who surrender to intimacy with Christ.  It is not an overnight deal—it is a grueling journey, it is the furnace of affliction, and a season of preparation.

‘Instant-ism’ is bringing the prophetic movement down.  Repent or you will soon find your movement in the museum of failed revivals.  The enterprise of doling out daily words of prophecy grieves God.  He deems it to be the same as horoscope reading.  Worst of all, it has driven the sheep away from the Bible.  All of this prophesying has failed to lead to a spiritual awakening in America. 

Consider:  “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.  But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.” (Jeremiah 23: 21,22)

We are on the cusp of a golden era of soul winning.  God sees the harvest is ripe.  Beware of the anger of God most when He sees the lost searching for Him.  That is when He cleans house. That is when He says, “I am going to save the lost—either let me purify you for service, or get out of My way.”

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. (Hebrews 10:31)

https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/the-grace-period-is-over/

The Consequences of Ignoring God

by Greg Laurie on Jul 6, 2019

I heard about a gallery owner who called one of his featured artists and said, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

The artist said, “Well, what’s the good news?”

“The good news is that a man came in here the other day and was looking at your paintings. He asked whether the value of the paintings would go up if the artist were to die. I told him they would, of course. So he bought every one of your paintings.”

“That’s fantastic,” the artist said. “So what’s the bad news?”

“The bad news is the man was your doctor.”

I think we can all use some good news in a bad world. But even as bad as things are now, they were even darker in Israel in the prophet Elisha’s day. It was, in fact, one of the darkest moments in Israel’s history. Everything had gone wrong. The king had basically become powerless.

A famine had swept the land, and things were so bad that they were actually eating dove dung, or to put it in modern vernacular, pigeon poop. The Scriptures also tell us that a delicacy at the time was the head of a donkey. Even worse, the people actually were turning to cannibalism.

Why had this happened to Israel?

It was a result of their disobedience to God and their repeated worship of false idols. This reminds us of a very important biblical principle: God will not share his glory with another.

You see, God put us on this earth to glorify him. Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 NIV). We were put here for that purpose. God wants us to fulfill that purpose.

And he certainly does not want to share his glory with any other gods. Two of the Ten Commandments deal with the topic of placing other gods before him.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, isn’t that a little paranoid on God’s part?”

It is not paranoia at all.

If you’re married, how would you feel if your spouse went out with a different person every night? That would be ridiculous. You wouldn’t put up with something like that.

But is it any more ridiculous when we turn from the true and living God to false gods? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down to the idol of success or the idol of money? Is it any more ridiculous when we bow down before the idol of fame or the idol of pleasure?

God is saying, “You belong to me. I am not sharing you with another.”

He basically told Israel, “I am your Lord. I am your God. I brought you out of Egypt. Worship me. That is all I ask.”

But they kept turning to false gods. So the Lord allowed them to reap the consequences of their actions. And when the king heard about the people’s cannibalism, he ripped his royal robes. And underneath those robes was sackcloth.

At that time sackcloth usually was associated with mourning and repentance. We would assume that the king perhaps was truly repentant before God. Hardly. Because right after that, he decided he wanted to kill Elisha, the representative of God.

The king was saying, in effect, “Listen, I tried the whole wait-on-God thing. I have tried the whole faith deal. It isn’t working. I don’t want to wait on God one day longer. I am ticked off. And it’s Elisha’s fault.”

Elisha had done nothing wrong. He simply was the Lord’s representative. What the king and Israel were experiencing was a direct result of their own disobedience.

But whoever said that sin makes sense? When people are sinking deeper into sin and reaping the consequences of it, they strike out at God (and sometimes his representatives, even) instead of repenting and coming to their senses.

Maybe you’ve been minding your own business, loving God and living the Christian life, and a nonbeliever has been hassling you. You’re saying, “What on earth is this all about? What have I done wrong?”

Maybe you’re doing something right, because the Bible says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).

We don’t necessarily want to be persecuted, but as Christians we will be. And we’re seeing it more and more in our culture today.

You’d better not say anything critical against any particular race. You’d better not say anything critical against a gender. You’d better not say anything critical about any particular group. But you can say whatever you want about followers of Jesus Christ, and that is acceptable in our culture.

Writing in the early 20th century, G.K. Chesterton said, “You are free in our time to say that God does not exist; you are free to say that He exists and is evil.… You may talk of God as metaphor or mystification. . . . But if you speak of God as a fact, as a thing like a tiger, as a reason for changing one’s conduct, then the modern world will stop you somehow if it can.… It is now thought irreverent to be a believer.”

If that was true back then, how much more true is it today?

I’ve heard it said that Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. That is ridiculous. Because the fact of the matter is, those who think the most of the next world will do the most for this one.

The Consequences of Ignoring God

Bible Contradiction? Is God the author of confusion?

 

For today’s post we will tackle the question the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: Is God the author of confusion?

Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes indicate a Bible contradiction:

Yes

Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called [c]Babel, because there the Lord confused the [d]language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:7-9)

but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

No

for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)

Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:

 

  1. When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction.  A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.  To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
  2. One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible.  See the many examples of their error which we have responded to in this post:   Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do.  But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
  3. A bit of background of each verse in its context might be helpful for readers.
    1. Genesis 11:7-9 in a chapter that is about the tower of Babel.  Humans were trying to gather and build a Tower that reached heaven but then we see God frustrate that attempt.
    2. Both 1 Corinthians 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 14:33 are verses in a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a church in Greece at a major city of Corinth.  Here he writes to them even as the church is in chaos and confusion about right doctrines and practice.
  4. The skeptic cited 1 Corinthians 14:33 as denying that God is the author of confusion.
    1. Note in the context it is talking about the necessity of having church service in an orderly fashion.  Verse 33 appeals to the basis for that is because “God is not a God of confusion.
    2. The Greek word for “confusion” here is ἀκαταστασίας.  In the NASB ἀκαταστασίας in Luke 21:9 is translated as commotion, in 2 Corinthians 6:5 is translated as tumults, in 2 Corinthians 12:20 as disturbance and James 3:16 as disorder.  We thus see here from the lexical range that 1 Corinthians 14:33 is denying God is any of those things in His attribute of who He is within Himself (the genitive case is showing an attribute of God here).
    3. To be technically correct 1 Corinthians 14:33 says “God is not a God of confusion.”  It does not say God is not an “author” of confusion, whatever that means by the skeptic.  This is an important distinction in that God within Himself in His character is not confused but that does not mean God might ordaining confusion outside of Himself for His own purposes.
  5. The skeptic cited 1 Corinthians 1:27 as denying that God is the author of confusion but the skeptic hasn’t properly interpreted that verse.
    1. 1 Corinthians 1:27 talks about God shaming the wise and the strong people of the World because of God’s election of the unwise and the weak.
    2. Here the skeptic is making a categorical fallacy in interpreting this verse: God shaming sinful prideful people is not the same thing as somehow God being the author of confusion.  Shaming someone is not the same thing as bringing about confusion per se (you can shame someone without confusing them).
    3. Moreover part of shaming them means that they will have some understanding adequate enough to feel ashamed.  And that understanding is contrary to confusion.
  6. The skeptic cited Genesis 11:7-9 as asserting that God is the author of confusion but it still does not contradict with 1 Corinthians 14:33 when both verses are properly interpreted.
    1. Remember 1 Corinthians 14:33 is talking about God’s attribute not being a God of confusion within Himself and it is not about God not being able to bring about confusion in circumstances outside of Himself, for His greater purposes.
    2. Genesis 11:7 and Genesis 11:9 clearly reveal that God did confuse the people’s language at the tower of Babel.
    3. However that does not mean that God Himself is a God of confusion as His internal attribute.
      1. That is because God can bring about confusion upon others as an act of punishment.  Within the Biblical worldview a just punishment doesn’t mean the judge is somehow the attribute related to those punishment in other contexts divorce from acts of justice such as being a sadistic pain giver, etc.
      2. Likewise God is a God who is acting in judging sin in Genesis 11 with the story of the Tower of Babel.
      3. So this does not contradict 1 Corinthians 14:33.
      4. Also it might seem paradoxical but it not an actual contradiction to say that God in a penal way brought about confusion of language and yet He is not a God of confusion.  For example I was in the Marines and knew a sniper who saved the lives of four other Marines.  He was a life saver.  Yet in saving the life of others he taken the life of those who were violently trying to kill those Marines.  He’s a life saver, because he saved lives of his fellow Marine; yet to do this he did have to act in the capacity of taking lives.  Still given the context it would still be proper to say he’s a life saver.  Likewise God is not a God of confusion and since He is orderly He has to judge sin and frustrate the plans of sinners.
    4. Patrick Hawthorne also added this insight: ” God confused their language but not their minds. By that I mean, God’s intent was not to confuse the people through deceit. He stayed true to His Word without any violations or contradiction. The people were still able to think and act according to the plans and purposes of God which never changed. The only difference was that the were unable to communicate with each other at the present moment.”  Think of a riot.  Those in law enforcement might hinder the communication of rioters (use of tear gas, specific removal of riot leaders, etc) by means that seems chaotic but one wouldn’t say the law enforcement group are breaking the law of being disorderly when they are trying to bring about order.
  7. We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity.  The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible.  In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview.  Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”

https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/bible-contradiction-is-god-the-author-of-confusion/

VIDEO Worship group stops at Chick-fil-A, busts out viral rendition of ‘Lean on Me’

Jul 15, 2019

Worship Group sings at Chick fil A

(FOX NEWS) — The sounds of smacking lips and sizzling chicken were briefly interrupted by an enthusiastic a cappella group at a Chick-fil-A in Nashville earlier this month.

Fox News reports that, in footage shared to Facebook on July 4, dozens of members of the Acapella Ministries Worship Leader Institute can be seen breaking out in song – specifically, Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” – in the Chick-fil-A dining room, much to the delight of the unsuspecting fast-food patrons and on-duty team members.


 


By the clip’s end, both customers and staffers had joined in on the fun, singing and clapping along with the performance.

The video, originally shared by Jake Jones, had amassed nearly a million views as of Monday.

“Awesome! Glory to God! These be my brothers!” one commenter wrote.

“I have the chills!” another added.

Jones told Fox News the group was attending Acappella Ministries’ Worship Leader Institute 2019, where they aimed to learn more effective ways to lead worship groups through song.

“Whenever you get a group of a cappella worship leaders together it’s hard for us not to sing together,” Jones says.

Jones added that this rendition of “Lean On Me” was arranged by Acappela Company President Keith Lancaster as a four-part harmony.

“The flash mob was planned to encourage patrons and employees at the Chick-Fil-A,” Jones explains. We’ve noticed every time we do something like this, people comment on the videos saying, ‘This is just what I needed,’ ‘We need more of this,’ and ‘Why can’t we have more of this in the world?’ We never know who will be touched through this.

“We feel it is our mission in life to spread God’s awesome news through the talents and gifts He’s given us,” he adds. “What better way than to lift people up in song!”

This wouldn’t be the first time a group of talented singers chose Chick-fil-A for a spontaneous performance. In July of 2018, singers attending the same conference treated patrons of a Chick-fil-A – also in Nashville – to a harmony-packed version of Hezekiah Walker’s “Every Praise.”

“This year there were too many of us to fit into one Chick-fil-A — we spread out into two groups,” said Jones, who said about 90 members went to this year’s event, which drew attendees from all over the world.

“Poland, India, Australia, Colombia, France, England, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Albania and the United States were all represented this year,” he said.

Copyright 2019 WDRB Media and Fox News. All rights reserved.

https://www.wdrb.com/wdrb-in-the-morning/worship-group-stops-at-chick-fil-a-busts-out-viral/article_6898516c-a71d-11e9-b45c-2b37f5ad4ac7.html

With Every Blessing

When the body has need, the Lord is faithful to provide

BY CHARLES F. STANLEY

Maybe you can picture it: Jesus Christ ascending into heaven. Perhaps you’ve imagined who was there and how they reacted. Though most Christians have heard the story numerous times, one part often gets overlooked: the Lord’s final words. Although the book of Matthew recounts the last thing Jesus said as being the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, Luke’s gospel gives an additional detail: “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).

 

Jesus’ last act before returning to His Father was to bless those first members of His church. In fact, everything about the church is the result of God’s grace. Sometimes we think of grace as simply the way we are saved, but it’s actually the means by which we exist as God’s people. The church was founded by grace, is kept by grace, and will reach its culmination by the grace of God. From beginning to end, the church has been showered with blessings and gifts from the Lord.

 

THE GIFT OF THE CROSS

The cross is the only means by which we can be saved and become a part of Christ’s church. When Jesus hung there with hands and feet pierced by nails, a divine exchange took place: “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life for our life—the gift of a God who, in humility, chose to live as a human being and die at the hands of His creation, that we might no longer be estranged from Him.

He has set us free. As a result of that loving gift, forgive­ness of sins and the righteousness of Christ are given to everyone who repents and believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us. Of course, a person can refuse that gift. But all who do will one day be required to stand before Him and offer an account for why they turned away from His love. In that moment, they’ll receive God’s righteous judgment, the truth of their hearts revealed. The cross is the only hope of salvation—it is the only way to be united with Jesus and live with Him for all eternity.

The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us.

The cross of Christ also gives us victory over sin. For those of us who have been saved, there is another blessing that comes through the cross. When Jesus was crucified, we were so closely identified with Him that we died with Him: “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6). The person we were before salvation—what the apostle Paul calls “our old self”—has died, and we have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). This new life is actually Christ’s life lived in us through the Holy Spirit, who now indwells our physical bodies.

God didn’t save us and then leave us to struggle through life as best we could. We have His presence and power in us through His Spirit. Because of the cross, we never walk through trials and temptations alone but can overcome through Christ and live in triumph rather than in continual defeat.

 

THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

God’s gracious blessings to the church include spiritual gifts that ensure the body of Christ can grow and build itself up in love. Spiritual gifts are divine abilities that equip us to serve the Lord effectively. Although they’re given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we work together according to each one’s unique giftedness, the church benefits and we experience the joy that comes from obediently serving the Lord.

Although spiritual gifts are given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church.

Therefore, we each need to discover our spiritual gifts and begin using them to accomplish what the Lord created us to do. Being a good steward of our gifts requires more than sitting in a church pew on Sundays. No matter how little we think we have to offer, God wants us to make ourselves available for service. Instead of using our difficult backgrounds, inadequacies, or past failures as excuses, we should do our best and trust the Lord to work through us.

 

THE GIFTS FOR THE CHURCH

God has also given other blessings to the church as His corporate body. We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from His supernatural enablement. Everything a church needs is provided by its head, Jesus Christ:

    • Gifted Leaders. After His ascension, Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints to serve and grow in maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). The apostles and prophets recorded the divine revelation that we now have in the New Testament, and evangelists and pastor-teachers continue the work of building up the body of Christ.
    • God’s Word. Scripture says the church becomes “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). That’s why the preaching of the Word is a top priority for pastors. It’s also the reason that God’s people should strive to live Christ’s life at all times, with all love and humility, in their communities: so that the truth would be evident (Matt. 5:14-16).

We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from God’s supernatural enablement.

  • Fellowship. Those in Christ have a connection with each other that transcends every societal barrier (Gal. 3:26-28). Our commonality is the Lord Himself, who binds us together in love.
  • Prayer. Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised the disciples that He would provide whatever they asked in His name (John 14:13-14).
  • Ordinances. Jesus left His church two ordinances as reminders. Baptism symbolizes our salvation, when we died to sin and were raised to life in Christ (Rom. 6:4), and the Lord’s Supper helps us recall His death and anticipate His return (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

All these magnificent gifts should motivate us to worship our Lord, who has abundantly supplied His church with every spiritual blessing. Because of His goodness, we want for nothing. Therefore it’s our privilege to walk humbly with Him, serve Him joyfully, and freely share with the world the message of salvation in Christ.

 

REFLECT

The Cross: Scripture clearly teaches that we are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified, yet we still struggle with sin. And in the same way, we are declared righteous, but we know our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions are not always godly. Paul described this struggle in Romans 7:15-25.

We are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified.

  • How do you identify with this scenario?
  • What particular sins seem to take over, even though you hate them?
  • How does knowing your position in Christ help you stand firm against sin?

Spiritual Gifts: The gifts of the Spirit are listed in Romans 12:6-81 Corinthians 12:8-11, and Ephesians 4:11-12.

  • Which of these gifts do you think you may have? How are you using it (or them)?
  • If these gifts are necessary for the common good, what do you think happens when some church members don’t use their gifts?
  • Imagine what your church would be like if all members were serving in their areas of giftedness.

Gifts for the Church: Review the list of gifts Christ gives to the church. What do these blessings reveal about His love and care for His body? What needs of yours are met by Christ through these wonderful gifts?

 

PRAY

Father, thank You that Your grace appeared at the cross of Christ, bringing me salvation. Now I ask that You continue Your gracious work in me by training me to deny ungodliness and worldly desire and to live righteously in this present age. Help me grow in love for Christ and His people, and may Your grace flow through me as I serve them by using my spiritual gift. I ask this in Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen.

 

MEDITATE

PRACTICE

If you feel as if you are losing the battle against sin despite the fact that the Bible says you have died to it, try praying scriptures like Ephesians 4:22-32 or Colossians 3:1-17, both of which affirm what God desires for you. Any time you offer prayers according to His will, you can be confident that He will answer (1 John 5:14-15).

Are you uncertain what your gifts are? If so, compare how you respond to situations or needs with the list in Romans 12:6-8. But also remember that gifts are discovered as you jump in and serve. Often, other people can help you discern your specific areas of giftedness.

 

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/the-pulpit/with-every-blessing

 

The Cross in the Crosshairs

image

By Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.

Last week’s cross decision was a major case for religious liberty. Perhaps it even spells the death knell of the so-called Lemon Test…an aptly-named decision from the early 1970s that has often been used against any religious expression in the public square.

The Supreme Court ruled that a 40-foot memorial cross in the state of Maryland was not unconstitutional. The cross was built beginning in 1919 to commemorate many soldiers from Prince George’s County who died in service to their country in World War I.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) sued to have the cross torn down. The 4thCircuit Court of Appeals (out of Richmond, Virginia) agreed with the AHA, and the cross had a sentence of death hanging over it. First Liberty Institute, which fights for religious liberty (including many military-oriented cases), fought to save the cross, on behalf of the American Legion. Perhaps surprisingly, the Supreme Court decided by a comfortable 7-2 margin.

The author of the decision was Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote, “A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.”

Writing for the dissenting minority—just herself and Justice Sonia Sotomayor—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg argued: “the principal symbol of Christianity around the world should not loom over public thoroughfares, suggesting official recognition of that religion’s paramountcy.”

After the victory, I interviewed constitutional attorney Jeremy Dys for a radio segment. Dys serves as the Deputy General Counsel for First Liberty, the legal organization that helped procure the victory on behalf of the American Legion.

Dys told me, “It’s a landmark victory for religious freedom….Whatever detractors are saying, they no longer have a tool in their arsenal so they can twist the establishment clause of the Constitution to render memorials like this Bladensburg World War I veterans memorial obsolete and then take a wrecking ball to it.”

The establishment clause, of course, is the first part of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” For the last several decades, the establishment clause has been invoked to censor out virtually any religious content in the public arena.

With this decision, he says, the Supreme Court is now protecting religious monuments: “That area of the law is kind of settled at this point, and we’re grateful that the Supreme Court has seen fit to protect what was the vision of some mothers back in 1919 as a way to remember their sons for serving in our armed forces.”

Dys continues: “The day and age when [they] can weaponize the establishment clause to bulldoze memorials just because they are religious [and are] on public property are over.”

Dys feels that this decision effectively replaces the Lemon test with something he calls “the American Legion Test” (after the organization that built the monument and fought for it in the Supreme Court case). According to that test, if a religious symbol has longstanding significance in America’s history and tradition, it has the “presumption of constitutionality.” He notes that there are now six justices saying that the Lemon Test is bad law.

That is very significant going forward. Through this decision, things like “In God We Trust” on our money or displayed on our walls in public buildings would also be protected.

Dys also notes that the American Legion deserves a lot of credit in this case: “We have been working with them for about 15-20 years now, protecting monuments that have religious imagery in them….These war heroes have been working with us for years to preserve these monuments. And if you’re one of those guys or gals from the American Legion…I just want to say: Mission Accomplished.”

This new victory would have allowed another World War I cross to stand, without having to change ownership of where it stands. In that case from a few years ago, First Liberty worked to save a memorial on public land in the Mojave Desert. A judge  ruled that that cross must be covered up with a canvas bag which was padlocked and then later covered up by a plywood box. “Why?” one might ask. So the spiders and snakes and occasional hikers could not see it? It was in the middle of nowhere. That cross ultimately was allowed to stay only because the land it stood on became privatized through a land-swap.

Just as Dracula flees from the cross, so there are many atheistic legal groups in America (like the American Humanist Association) that fight the cross at every turn—even when it is a symbol of those who paid the ultimate price for our country. Thank God the cross in the crosshairs still stands.

https://www.djameskennedy.org/article-detail/the-cross-in-the-crosshairs